Good morning to everyone in DCNR.
The Nevada Legislature is now at the halfway point (assuming no special sessions). I thought you would appreciate a quick update on the first 60 days.
As previously reported, budget hearings began in January, even before the official start of the session. Since that first high-level overview hearing, we have had a number of more detailed hearings before the Joint Finance Subcommittee.
This session has been like no other I have ever experienced. Instead of defending requests for budget enhancements, we have spent much of the hearings detailing our reductions. The members of the Subcommittee have been very sympathetic to our cuts and the potential impacts to our agency missions, Nevada citizens, visitors and our employees.
On March 30, the Subcommittee recommended closure of a portion of DCNR’s budgets, which is the first step toward finalizing the proposed budgets. This hearing included the Director’s Office, the Wild Horse Commission, Conservation Districts, Natural Heritage, the State Environmental Commission and several budget accounts from the Division of Forestry.
Closure hearings before the Subcommittee for the remainder of our budget accounts will continue in April and May, followed by final closure hearings before the full “money” committees.
Update on legislation
The pace of legislative bill hearings this session has been staggering. Legislators hit the ground running, and rare is the day we don’t have three or four hearings where we need to attend or testify. The following is a partial listing of some of the major bills we are working on that deal directly with the department:
SB 37 deals with NDEP’s Safe Drinking Water Program and the awarding of subgrants.
SB 42 has been watched closely by the Division of State Parks and would modify oversight of construction projects by the Public Works Board.
SB 60 addresses the clean up of drug labs, where DEP’s Corrective Action Bureau would play a role.
SB 94 addresses fire regulations in the wildland/urban interface at Lake Tahoe and Mount Charleston. NDF has had major involvement in this bill, which is a recommendation of the Bi-State Fire Commission.
SB 105 modifies match requirements for grants from NDEP’s Board to Finance Water Projects.
SB 146 will use conservation bond dollars (Question 1) to help deal with wildfire and invasive species in our sagebrush habitats.
SB 152 is one of the major pieces of legislation this session and deals with green jobs. It tasks State Parks with the evaluation of hydroelectric and wind power at South Fork State Recreation Area (a Nevada State Park).
SB 186 would allow for the operation of a tire recycling center in Southern Nevada.
SB 332 features the work of NDEP concerning alternative fuels. This bill is also being closely watched by our larger divisions for issues related to their fleets.
SB 394 would regulate off highway vehicles.
SB 395 is the Governor’s bill for encouraging renewable energy. It is an outgrowth of his Climate Change Committee and Electrical Transmission Task Force.
SB 397 is a bill proposing a surcharge on plastic bags and is being watched by NDEP.
AB 18 and its companion bill AB 526 would authorize $100 million in bonds for environmental improvement projects on the Nevada side of Lake Take for the next 10 years.
AB 75 would require NDF prepare and submit reports on forest health at Lake Tahoe. This was a recommendation of the Bi-State Fire Commission.
AB 78 is the first agency bill (and one of the first bills to come out of the legislative session) to pass both houses and be signed by the Governor. It formalizes in statute the NDF/Corrections Conservation Camp Program. Kay has termed this bill the “happiest bill in the session.” No one said a negative word about it!
AB 426 deals with the recycling and disposal of electronic waste.
AB 119, AB 276, AB 363, AB 376, AB 377, AB 416, AB 480, SB204, SB 347 and SB 373 all have elements relating to the Office of the State Engineer (I have not included the additional five or so only peripherally related to DWR). Topics include protest periods, water importation project oversight, public notice provisions, science-based decision making, basin inventories and state supremacy over water allocation. As in the last two sessions, water is a very hot topic!
State Parks is closely following a number of bills related to law enforcement.
State Lands is following a multitude of land use and planning bills as well as bills such as those dealing with lease/purchase agreements.
You can get the full text of these bills on the legislature’s website.
You will notice I did not include bills dealing with employee labor issues, compensation (raises or pay reductions), benefits reductions, etc. These high profile bills will probably be some of the last to be heard and addressed in the waning days of the session in late May.
I am very pleased with the direction legislation related to the department is headed. This is due in large part to the efforts of Deputy Director Kay Scherer and all of the division administrators and their deputies who have been working very hard to keep up with the flow of bills and making sure we have a voice in legislative hearings impacting the department. We have been able to get modified the bills that would negatively impact us and move ahead with those of benefit. Finally, it is my observation that the department and staff is well respected at the legislature and that our input and comments are taken seriously.
U.S. Forest Service liaison begins working with state
Please welcome from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Michael Hampton. Michael will be the U.S. Forest Service liaison to state agencies and will be located at the NDF Carson City Office on Fairview Dr. Please contact Michael at (775) 355-5314 or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have regular contact with the Forest Service.
While on the topic, the USFS recently awarded the Division of Forestry — in round one — more than $1.3 million in federal stimulus funds for conservation projects in eastern Nevada. NDF has the distinction of being the first award for Nevada though a competitive grant process. Details can be found here.
A big thank you to the staff of NDF for getting the stimulus fund application submitted on very short notice and for jumping through all of the hoops necessary to get the work on the ground.
Wild Horse Commission seeking donations for wild horse training efforts
Wild Horse Administrator Cathy Barcomb began working last week on obtaining donations for the prison’s wild horse training program at the Stewart facility. As part of this effort, she is seeking jeans, vests, boots, and helmets for the inmates. Cathy was able to get Troxel helmets to provide a reduced cost of $15 each for their helmets (normally $100) and was able to secure 17 helmets for free. That’s $1,700 in new helmets for the program. No inmate is allowed near the horses without a helmet and a few weeks ago when Cathy was there she noticed helmets with duct tape on them.
Cathy is still seeking used boots, vests and blue jeans. If you have any that you would like to donate, she is accepting sizes suitable for adult males. Please call her at (775) 849-3625 for information or drop off donations at the Bryan Building Director’s Office or any NDF office statewide. Here is a video of the Corrections training program.
Joanne Marchetta appointed new director of TRPA
I have the pleasure of serving as Governing Board Chairman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and we recently appointed Joan Marchetta, formerly TRPA’s Legal Counsel, as the new director. She is taking over from John Singlaub, who announced his resignation in January. Marchetta has been with TRPA as general counsel since 2005 and prior to that she was at The Presidio Trust in San Francisco, with a stint before that at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As part of the interview process, Marchetta presented the board with a statement and direction for the agency that was quite impressive. Here is just a short part of her interview statement:
“These are extraordinary times for our country, times that leave the Basin in a far more vulnerable circumstance. The next few years are likely to make the difference in how the region is positioned for the future when full recovery happens, as it will. Will we be ready or will we have let the opportunity pass by? Will we have set a course or will we still be arguing among ourselves about what direction to head?”
Stepping into Marchetta’s previous position is Nicole Rinke, who has been appointed as TRPA’s general counsel. Rinke has been the TRPA Assistant General Counsel since February 2007. She previously worked for the Western Environmental Law Center representing conservationists, ranchers and rural communities concerned with Nevada water policy.
Have a great April!